| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Set-up phase: 2006-2008
Following the network launch in March 2006, a first steering committee was formed and endowed with the responsibility to coordinate the design and implementation of the first training activities and to set a work plan and milestones for the network’s development. The committee held its first meeting in June 2006, in Granada, Spain to discuss progress, potential funding as well as prospects of enlargement. It met again in January 2007 in Amman, Jordan.
The committee worked with local and international consultants to develop the Network’s Convention and Bylaws, to design the network’s graphic identity and to produce a brochure and the First Directory of Public Service Training Institutes in MENA. It also organized a Regional Training of Trainers program on performance budgeting in Rabat, Morocco.
In June 2008, the First General Assembly/Annual Network Meeting was held in Paris, under the theme "Joining hands for a better public service". The meeting witnessed the ratification of the Convention and Bylaws, the official appointment of the Institute of Finance of Lebanon as the permanent Secretariat of the Network and the election of a new steering committee. Shortly after, in November 2008, the newly elected committee met in Beirut to elaboration a vision, strategy and a medium-term action plan for the network.
Development phase: 2009-2014
As of 2009, members and partners started meeting regularly on the occasion of the Annual Network Meeting and the Conference (listed below):
• Leadership in MENA Civil Service: Challenges of Competence and Confidence Building (Beirut, 2009)
• Public Financial Management in MENA: Reforming for Results at a Time of Crisis (Beirut, 2010)
• Rethinking Training in the Public Sector (Beirut, 2011)
• Training and Cooperation for Change in the MENA region (Tunis, 2012)
• Human Capital Formation in the Public Sector and the Challenge of building the State in times of crisis (Kuwait, 2014)
Each year, on the occasion of the Annual Network Meeting, a two-year action plan is agreed upon with members. The plan is built on three pillars:
1. Pillar 1: Capacity development and Technical Assistance, including:
a. Study tours and institutional visits by regional delegations to centers of excellence in the areas of capacity development, training and governance reform in the Arab world.
b. Bilateral exchanges in the forms of study visits between two member institutions.
c. The organization of regional training seminars
d. Exchange of trainers: Member institutions send a request to the Secretariat soliciting the expertise of Arabic-speaking trainers on a particular topic of interest.
e. Technical assistance services: The Secretariat provides, in partnership with an international partner (e.g. ADETEF) technical assistance services to Ministries of Finance wishing to establish training institutes across the Arab world or to public institutions wishing to strengthen their capacities in learning and training engineering.
2. Pillar 2: Partnerships and Networking:
a. Annual meetings and conferences
b. Participation to international and regional conferences
c. Signature of Memorandum of Understanding
3. Pillar 3: Publication and Knowledge Production that includes the production of reports, briefs, papers and selected publications on topics of interest to the network.
The Secretariat coordinates the design, organization, implementation and follow-up of each activity. Every year, the plan is fine-tuned according to achievements and results of the past year.
In parallel to the yearly offer, on-demand requests for specific training programs, bilateral study visits and technical assistance are shared with the Secretariat that answers accordingly.
A number of bilateral exchange activities are also regularly organized between network institutions without involving the Secretariat, and often result in the signature of Memoranda of Understanding.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The GIFT-MENA Network was launched at the initiative of the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan of Lebanon, and with the initial support of the World Bank and the Agency for International Technical Cooperation of the Ministries of Economy, Finance and Sustainable Development of France- ADETEF. Seven MENA Government training institutions, two regional organizations and ten European and international organizations endorsed the initial project, in March 2006.
In 2014, the network brings together 58 member institutions (i.e. civil service training schools and institutes in MENA, as well as Government agencies and/or ministerial divisions, which include training government civil servants as part of their mission in the MENA region) from 19 Arab countries in addition to 17 associate members (i.e. International and regional organizations, Euro-Mediterranean civil service training schools, institutes, organizations, government agencies and/or ministerial divisions, and Global networks of universities, institutions or individuals involved in training and/or capacity building, public administration and governance or that provide technical assistance for State modernization in MENA).
The Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan is the permanent Secretariat of the Network. It coordinates the design, organization, implementation and follow-up of network activities.
The Network’s Steering Committee is elected every two years on the occasion of the Annual Meeting. It meets once a year to discuss, formulate and subsequently recommend to the General Assembly major policies, strategies, and actions providing overall direction to the network and set strategic orientations. For the period 2012-2014, the Steering Committee is composed of:
1. The Bahrain Institute of Public Administration (BIPA)
2. The Public Finance Training Center (PFTC) at the Ministry of Finance of Jordan
3. The Ministry of Finance of Palestine
4. The National School of Finance of Tunis
5. The Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan of Lebanon (Secretariat)
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The network is financed through grants awarded by international organizations, as well as by members’ in-kind contributions and the co-financing of activities and events.
The Institut has been housing the Secretariat of the network since 2006, mobilizing staff time and in-kind contribution to run operations.
The World Bank provided technical and financial support to the establishment and initial development of the network (2006-2008), including the organization of the two first steering committee meeting, the development of a first online platform, the elaboration of the convention and bylaws and the creation of the graphic identity. It also contributed through Trust Funds directly managed by the Bank to the joint organization of learning and training events during the period 2007-2014.
As of January 2011, the French Treasury awarded a 450,000 Euros grant to the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan over four years for the development of the GIFT-MENA network. In January 2014, the Ministry of Civil Service and Decentralization pledged an additional fund of 50,000 Euros for 2015.
The Islamic Development Fund made two small grants to the organization of regional training programs specialized in public financial management and addressed to middle and senior public managers in the Arab world in 2011 and 2012.
The Arab Planning Institute has also contributed to the organization of two annual conferences by sponsoring the participation of senior officials from Arab countries and has hosted one the 2014 Annual Conference and Meeting.
Network members also made punctual and in-kind contribution to the joint organization and hosting of the network’s activities.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The five below outputs contributed to the success of the GIFT-MENA initiative at many levels:
1. The ratification, since 2007, of 8 bilateral memorandum of understanding among network members, reflecting the growing collaboration and bilateral exchange between public sector training operators in the Arab world. These agreements provide an institutional framework for cooperation in the form of the joint organization of learning events, the exchange of trainers and trainees and the dissemination of relevant experiences, data, and publications; or the elaboration of joint learning projects.
2. Support to regional dialogue at policy and technical levels: More than 465 decision-makers, practitioners and subject-matter experts have participated to the network annual meetings and conferences: Beirut (2006, 2009, 2010, 2011), Paris (2008), Tunis (2012) and Kuwait (2014). In addition to more than 200 experts and practitioners taking part to regional workshops and seminars, jointly organized across the region and with the collaboration of regional and international partners such as the World Bank, ADETEF and the Islamic Development Bank.
3. Leadership building in the public sector for Policy Design and Implementation: Specialized training programs focusing on reform and modernization and transforming lessons learned from international experiences into useful practices, norms and standards were devised and offered to the region through a curriculum of 6 training modules specialized in Public Financial Management. Programs covered budget preparation, budget execution, government accounting, audit and control, public procurement and strategic procurement. They are available in the Arabic language.
4. More than bilingual 20,000 publications were printed and distributed (In the Arabic and English languages), including reference guides, conference proceedings and thematic reports.
5. The Secretariat has hosted 20 Arab delegations at its premised in Beirut. Visiting delegations were coming from Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Palestine, Morocco and Libya. These delegations were interested in the set-up and operations of a Government training center and in the development of their training tools and policies. The Secretariat also provided technical assistance services, in collaboration with ADETEF, to the establishment of two institutes of Finance in Jordan and Palestine.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Various tools were developed and used to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the strategy:
1. Individual evaluation forms: Following each network activity, participants are asked to fill in an anonymous individual satisfaction form, designed to assess direct learning/knowledge outcomes and the pertinence of the activity, to identify areas for improvement and to provide suggestions for future activities.
2. Yearly meetings: On the occasion of the Annual Meeting, the Secretariat briefs members on the progress and achievements made since the last Meeting. The overview includes developments related to the network's activities, new members, financial resources and management. Members are solicited to present their most recent initiatives pertaining to capacity development, to share prospects of cooperation, to review and comment on the suggested initiatives and to propose new ideas and activities to be included in the upcoming calendar, in accordance with their priorities and needs.
3. A satisfaction survey questionnaire was distributed in January 2014 to main beneficiaries of the network’s programs. It aimed to assess their degree of satisfaction as well as the extent to which the network is meeting its objectives, the effectiveness of communication with member institutions and to gather suggestions and assess needs for the period 2014-2015. Results did not reach a critical number to be generalized but the overall feedback was positive. Main suggestions proposed to maintain the provision of high-quality training modules to sustain knowledge transfer and change management, to intensify peer-to-peer exchanges on the occasion of study visits, to support the publication and dissemination of evidence-based papers focusing on good practices and success stories from the region, to promote the role of the network as a hub for capacity-building in the MENA region and to achieve financial autonomy.
4. A strategic review of the network is to be conducted in 2015-2016, on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Network: It shall consist of international technical assistance aiming to review and develop the network’s role, positioning and governance structure, and provide recommendations to reinforce its institutional development and sustainability. The strategic review shall be conducted based on extensive consultations with member institutions, partners, and beneficiaries.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
• With the launch of the GIFT-MENA network, institutional cooperation and openness across public sector institutions in the areas of governance and state modernization were a break away from traditional models of collaborating in the Arab region. At first, collaboration between members remained hesitant. However, the participatory governance approach promoted by the network as well as its “Southern” identity and the benefits of experience-sharing have played a major role in stimulating regional cooperation.
• Limited financial and human capacity was a major challenge for the network. Since 2006, programs have been financed through small grants by international organizations or in-kind contributions by member institutions. The Secretariat has been funded by the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan and more recently with the support of ADETEF (2010-2014). Shortages in human capacities were primarily linked to the limited financial resources made available to the network. For sustainability, the network is working to devise a strategy for financial autonomy.
• Since 2011, many countries of the MENA region have started witnessing political instability which has forced the network to perform in a largely unstable environment. When government priorities are focusing on peace-building, reconstruction, dealing with political deadlocks and refugees’ crisis, fighting terrorism and containing social unrests, the network is striving to convince Arab donors and policy makers of the importance of cooperation, partnership building and capacity building to serve their goals, strengthen State institutions and achieve peace-building.
In this context of instability, the Secretariat encouraged the delocalization of activities to countries that enjoy more stability (e.g. Jordan, Tunis, Kuwait, etc.). It maintained an open and constructive dialogue with policy-makers and the donor community to try to align the GIFT-MENA action plan to the policy agendas of member countries and create synergies between national reform plans, regional technical assistance and capacity development.